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How does forest fragmentation affect tree communities? A critical case study in the biodiversity hotspot of New Caledonia

Ibanez T., Hequet V., Chambrey C., Jaffré T., Birnbaum P.. 2017. Landscape Ecology, 32 (8) : p. 1671-1687.

DOI: 10.1007/s10980-017-0534-7

Context: The biodiversity hotspot for conservation of New Caledonia has facing high levels of forest fragmentation. Remnant forests are critical for biodiversity conservation and can help in understanding how does forest fragmentation affect tree communities. Objective: Determine the effect of habitat configuration and availability on tree communities. Methods: We mapped forest in a 60 km2 landscape and sampled 93 tree communities in 52 forest fragments following stratified random sampling. At each sampling point, we inventoried all trees with a diameter at breast height =10 cm within a radius of 10 m. We then analysed the response of the composition, the structure and the richness of tree communities to the fragment size and isolation, distance from the edge, as well as the topographical position. Results: Our results showed that the distance from the forest edge was the variable that explained the greatest observed variance in tree assemblages. We observed a decrease in the abundance and richness of animal-dispersed trees as well as a decrease in the abundance of large trees with increasing proximity to forest edges. Near forest edges we found a shift in species composition with a dominance of stress-tolerant pioneer species. Conclusions: Edge-effects are likely to be the main processes that affect remnant forest tree communities after about a century of forest fragmentation. It results in retrogressive successions at the edges leading to a dominance of stress-tolerant species. The vegetation surrounding fragments should be protected to promote the long process of forest extension and subsequently reduce edge-effects. (Résumé d'auteur)

Mots-clés : forêt; biodiversité; structure du peuplement; distribution géographique; composition botanique; dynamique des populations; croissance; diamètre à hauteur de poitrine; cartographie des fonctions de la forêt; cartographie; communauté végétale; nouvelle-calédonie; france

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